How To Secure a Website – A Complete Guide
Website security is vital. Many businesses focus all their efforts and budget on their site speed and their search engine optimisation efforts, which are both valuable but it’s important to ensure that your website is secure from online threats as well. In this article we are going to go over the reasons why web security is important and what some of the most common threats are. We’re also going to give you a step-by-step guide to securing your website because we believe that when it comes to the internet no one is secure until everyone is secure.
Why is website security needed?
In certain cases, malicious software is used to infect websites, collect data and even hijack computer resources. Attackers will sometimes redirect traffic from an infected site to malicious sites and software.
This means that hackers can use your website to infect visitors to your site with malware if your website is not adequately secured. If this happens, the customer is likely to blame you for exposing them to malware due to your site being insufficiently secured.
There are thousands of different malware forms and just as many ways to infect your website. These days the majority of hacking attempts are made not by an individual hacker themselves but using an automated hacking tool. These tools scan the internet for vulnerable websites and then automatically try to compromise them using an array of known exploits and brute force methods.
The aim of these hacks is almost always to compromise your customers, either directly by forwarding your traffic to a malicious site or by gaining access to customer information like names and addresses stored on your site.
Website security improves your SEO
Security does also have an impact on your search engine ranking. If your site does not have the minimum requirement for security (like an SSL certificate) Google will downrank your site in search and the Google Chrome browser may even warn visitors that they are at risk if they try to access you site.
How To Secure Your Website – Website Security Audit Checklist
- Scan your website for vulnerabilities
The most efficient way to identify potential website security loopholes that hackers could use to target you is to employ automated web application scanning. This is the first step towards securing websites for any businesses.
Depending on your web host, they may have scanning tools built into their hosting platform. Alternatively, there are online tools that can help you scan your site, or you could use a third-party cybersecurity provider like ourselves to help scan and secure your site.
Thankfully, Carden Digital’s website hosting platform scans for malware on your website once a day and automatically alerts you if it is detected. Our web developers can also help you remove the malware and fix any vulnerabilities if you do not have your own developer on hand.
- Make sure all software is up to date
It is simple but often ignored. In order to keep your site protected from hackers, it is vital to keep all your software up to date. This relates to everything in the entire tech stack, including the company’s server operating systems, the website’s CMS, the WordPress version (or whichever CMS you are using) and other applications.
The majority of major cyber-attacks which succeed do so due to operating systems being out of date.
When you host your website with Carden Digital, we ensure that the hosting is always secure and up to date, but the maintenance of the website itself will be your responsibility unless you have purchased a website maintenance plan.
- Be wary of user inputs
Any area on your site where users can enter data or upload files is a potential vulnerability and needs extra attention paid to it. These form fields can be used to enter malicious code in attacks which are known as “cross site scripting” attacks.
You need to treat any user uploaded content with suspicion. For example, if you allow users to upload files, you should block them uploading executable files.
- Use a penetration testing service
You never truly know if your site is secure if you don’t test it. A penetration testing service is where a cybersecurity professional will attempt to compromise your site using the same tools and techniques that a hacker would. This can be a great way of discovering vulnerabilities that you did not know exist. If you are interested in testing the efficacy of your cybersecurity setup, speak to one of our team to arrange a test.
- Use an SSL certificate (https)
Without a secure HTTPS connection, your users’ data and activity on your website could be viewed, intercepted, or even altered. An SSL certificate can help to prevent this, but your site will need to be HTTPS compliant before activating it. If elements of your site are still loaded over unsecured connections, it can cause compatibility problems with your new SSL certificate. We can help to provide an SSL certificate and our developers can help you to get your site ready for it to be activated.
Without an SSL certificate, Google Chrome will often advise users against visiting your site and your search rankings will suffer as a result. Other services, such as payment processors will often refuse to work with sites that are not SSL-secured.
- Monitor traffic surges for DDoS attacks
DDoS attacks are a common tactic used to take down websites. Significant amounts of illegitimate traffic are sent to your website, eating up your bandwidth and server resources. This attack prevents legitimate traffic from reaching your site. You can monitor you traffic using tools like Google Analytics. If you notice unusually large amounts of traffic coming from a single IP, or large amounts traffic coming from locations that do not make sense for your business this could be a sing that someone is attempting to do a DDoS attack on your site.
Luckily for our customers, Carden Digital’s hosting platform automatically blocks suspected malicious traffic during DDoS events.
- Always keep a backup
Think of your website as an interactive document. Like any other important document, you should always have a backup of it. Some hosting platforms will offer backups on a regular schedule (daily/ weekly) but you may also wish to make your own backup. In the event that your site is compromised irrecoverably by malware, or even if your host goes down, having your own backups means you can easily host the site on a new platform in no time at all.
Follow the 3-2-1 rule. Have three copies of your site, on at least two different mediums, and keep at least one of those copies in a separate location to the others. So, for a website this might be
- 1 live copy of the site, hosted by your provider online.
- Your provider’s backup, stored on their servers.
- Your own copy, stored on your own hard drive.
We hope this has been a useful guide to some of the fundamentals of website security. If you are interested in a secure, fast, and affordable website host – contact Carden Digital today and our team will be happy to go over the options with you. Alternatively, if you feel confident and tech-savvy enough to manage your hosting yourself, you can use our self-service hosting platform at Carden IT Hosting and get a serious discount.